Ever since she was a little girl, Felicia Zhang remembers sitting in front of the TV every two years to watch both the summer and winter Olympics.
It was like a whole other world on the other side of the screen – a dream.
But tomorrow, at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Zhang’s dreams will be realized when she gets ready to take part in a pair skating event.
In her youth, she was introduced to the art of skating from her dad who became interested in speed skating.
Zhang then tried her hand at figure skating. At first, she wasn’t passionate about it, but she recalls the event that piqued her interest.
“It wasn’t until a birthday party at an ice rink with a few friends,” Zhang wrote in an email to The Oracle from Germany, where she was training with her team. “That was when I started to get into it. . . I really enjoyed skating around-feeling the wind across my face and through my hair.”
Then came group lessons. Zhang progressed quickly. However, there was a point where she battled to improve. Her enemy was the triple toe jump. Her weapons were practice and patience.
“I never thought that I would land this jump fully rotated,” she said.
Through Zhang’s frustration, her then-coach Pamela Gregory – a nationally sought-after figure skating coach – encouraged her to persevere.
“The water will boil,” she said Gregory told her. “And it will always boil if you work hard enough.”
For Zhang, the water exceeded the boiling point. She landed the triple-toe jump, and that’s when she knew she could pursue her dream.
“That rush of emotion that filled my body was a new sense of accomplishment, and I knew that deep down I could land another triple jump and another and another,” she wrote. “And every jump after that has changed me.”
A lot of her time is spent practicing in an Ellenton ice rink.
But when she’s not vigorously practicing for the Olympics, she can be found attending classes at USF St. Pete, or working her job as a sales associate at J. Crew at Ellenton Premium Outlets.
“It’s a normal day or night (working),” she wrote. “Except for the occasional person who bumps into me and asks if I was in the newspaper.”
Zhang said she realizes that participating in the Olympics is not only a competition, but a chance to represent the U.S. in the international spotlight.
“It’s such an honor to be a part of Team USA and represent our country on the highest stage and competition in the world,” she wrote. “It’s what I have always dreamed of.”
Still looking at the big picture, Zhang realizes that the Olympics are an important moment in her life and career, but she realizes that her dream will go beyond Sochi.
“A big picture for me is to be the best skater that I can be for myself,” she wrote. “And I am still on that journey for improvement, but the Olympics is definitely a life changing experience that I would never forget.”